27 July, 2021

Riddle Of The ‘Safe’ Plane

The curious case of the AN-32 that disappeared with 29 on board

A C-130 returns after a failed mission to trace the missing AN-32
Photograph by Getty Images
Riddle Of The ‘Safe’ Plane

Lost &  Not Found

  • 16 ships, 17 aircraft and a submarine were drafted into the search-and-rescue mission in the Bay of Bengal
  • AVM (retd) K. Kak says the aircraft are routinely pushed ­beyond the limits specified by the manufacturer


At the Air Headquarters in South Block this Wednesday, an officer called up the operational command and asked, “Any joy?” The reply: Nope. There was still no trace of the AN-32 that disappeared over the Bay of Bengal on July 22 while on a routine sortie to Port Blair. There were 29 people on board when it took off from Tambaram Air Force Station, located in a suburb of Tamil Nadu’s capital Chennai. Forty-three minutes into the flight, it went off the radar.

Air traffic control did not panic, though. It was, they explained later, normal for an aircraft to enter what is known as a ‘space void’ when all communication with the cockpit gets snapped. But when contact was not re-established even after...

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